For a man in his early 20’s, Cascar Super series regular D.J. Kennington has a remarkable amount of experience. 18 years of experience. He started racing when he was four years old on a go-kart dirt oval, behind a pig barn near Glanworth, ON. The first night he raced the young rookie was moved up to “C” class to run against 14-16 year olds. D.J. Kennington actually won a couple of features that year and finished second in the points.
The next year, 1982, Doug Kennington, DJ’s dad, built an eighth-mile, dirt oval and started running go-kart races. Over the years the entry list grew from 8-10 to over 75 karts per night when the track closed in 1992. And DJ just kept driving and winning.
That year the Kenningtons’ purchased a CASCAR and DJ started testing the car whenever he could. “The plan was for me to test the car as often as possible to learn the driving aspect and to work on the car as a mechanic to learn the mechanical aspect,” said DJ. “Bob Hulme drove the car for those first years and tried to teach me as much as he could about driving and wrenching. After two years, I turned 16 and I got to race.”
Two days later he started his first car race. “I won my first heat race,” said Kennington, “I thought this was going to be easy, but in the feature, racing against drivers like Dan Shirtliff, Jack Monaghan, Paul Mathers, Steve Roblee and Al Turner, I found out it wasn’t as easy as I first thought. Even against all that good competition, I still finished ninth in that first feature race.”
In 1994, DJ started five Super Series races to gain experience and to protect his rookie status for the following year. DJ just missed the Rookie-of-the-Year award in 1995, losing out to Peter Gibbons by just three points. He finished 11th in the Eastern Series and 14th in the National Series.
Castrol Oil has been a long time partner with DJK Racing. The association started in 1992 when the team bought its first CASCAR and has continued through the present. In 1996 Kleen-Flo became the major sponsor for a CASCAR Sportsman program which resulted in the Championship at Delaware Speedway Park. In 1997 DJ won the Quebec CASCAR Sportsman title and after a lacklustre year in 1998 gave up the Sportsman car to concentrate on the Super Series.
“We had a good year in 1999,” said Kennington. “We finished third in both the National and Eastern CASCAR championships, qualified on the outside pole six times, won three heat races and won the final race of the year at Fredericton.”
When DJ is not racing, which he does on a full time basis during the season, he is a mechanic and driver for Kennington Towing Services.
He also assists his father in servicing the 60 Elgin Motor Freight trucks. This is where the synergy between sponsors and team comes to the forefront. Elgin Motor Freight is a sponsor of DJK Racing and so are Castrol and Kleen-Flo. Both products are used exclusively in the race car and in the servicing of the highway tractors. “It’s a good deal for everyone,” says DJ.
The now 22 year old DJ claims there is an excellent cross-over from winter job to summer racing. “I can drive anything in any weather conditions,” claims DJ. “Whether it is backing a highway tractor down a narrow lane while it’s on a tow truck hook or sliding my SUV on snowy back roads, the driving experience is useful on the race track.
And really, the go-karting taught me all the basics. The same goes for the “mechanicing” I do with my Dad. When I understand the mechanics of my race car, I can give better feed-back to my crew so they can adjust the car and make it better and faster.”
Today, a veteran of 18 years of racing, DJ still appreciates the opportunity he has been given. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he says. “My father, Doug, has made all this possible. He builds all my race engines and works with Castrol and Kleen-Flo to make sure the programs are successful. I get to drive in a great Series, meet lots of good people and work towards someday doing this on a full time basis. It hasn’t come without some hard work and sacrifices. I don’t have a girl friend – something about the race car coming first! – and I don’t have many friends outside my race team. However, I’m not complaining. I have been taught responsibility and that will stay with me the rest of my life and to appreciate what I have and to live everyday to its fullest”.
DJK Racing has just signed a two year agreement with Castrol that will see the Team stay in CASCAR through the 2001 season. “My ultimate goal is full time NASCAR Winston Cup racing,” said a determined Kennington. “I played junior hockey and I realize that my chances of making it to the NHL were probably better than making it to NASCAR, but this is what I have chosen to do and I’m going to give it my best shot.”
DJ has a trump card. Last year, his sister Deanna, did a tour of the Winston Cup teams’ headquarters armed with resumes of her brother’s racing successes. Not everyone was sympathetic, but she did make some friends at some of the top teams. For the 2000 season the goal is to win CASCAR’s Eastern and National championships and to further DJ’s and the team’s skills in the sport.
With a hard working sister on his side plus good success on the race track, the future looks bright for the kid that started racing behind a pig barn. SSGM